Thursday, 31 January 2013

London Heathrow, -Bypassed by new rail line,- and northern air passengers.

Why no commitment to a Heathrow link for Britain's proposed first purely domestic high speed railway (HS2) ask some of the critics of the scheme? Some even want the whole thing routed via the airport in the first place, thereby adding a costly and time wasting detour to the jouney of the vast majority of HS 2 's passengers who have no need or desire to go anywhere near the airport.

The reason for HS 2 not going to Heathrow is actually simple. An answer could be given now rather than having to wait four more years for the 4 year long study of future airport needs in the south east, atask worthy of an undergraduate's weekend essay. To save even that amount of time and effort, here it is:

The hard fact is that Heathrow is becoming less and less relevant as a gateway to the world for people living from at least Birmingham northwards. Even the smallest regional airport has long had (mainly KLM )connections to the world via Amsterdam and these get better all the time. Now Birmingham,Manchester,Newcastle and Glasgow all have direct long haul services to at least one of the attractive, passenger friendly, minimum hassle Middle East and/or Turkish hubs which offer one stop connections to almost everywhere in their area and on to Australasia, Asia, the Indian sub continent and Africa. Manchester also has Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines services to their home airports and beyond.
Why then go via London with its awkward often multi-terminal domestic to international and vice versa connections?

So, forget about diverting HS 2 to Heathrow for northern business and instead concentrate on the areas which the airport still does serve,- namely London, southern and western England and Wales. That's until the all or any of the above carriers decide to add Bristol to their networks . A short loop from the nearby Great Western mainline which runs between Paddington, Reading, the west of England, Wales, is easy to construct and should have been built decades ago but wasn't because the UK was very slow to electrify most of its railways. Home produced diesel fuel was cheap and didn't require power lines and other expensive infrastructure. Now the main line is being electrified this link is to be built, but only as a low priority . It is pencilled in for around ten years hence ,in 2020.  Until then, as for the previous 50 years, passengers heading west are invited to queue up in the cold for the coach link to Reading.

The reality is that HS 2 has little or nothing to do with Heathrow.  Arguments for it going there are a convenient distraction from the real task of getting it,- and a third runway for Heathrow,- built as soon as possible. Many of those raising the question know that but see it as a way to at least achieve that most British of things,- a delay, ideally until someone else is responsible or has to pay for it,- or they are dead.

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